One-on-One With Marcus Morris
Dec. 2, 2010
LAWRENCE, Kan. –
It is now common knowledge to most college basketball fans that the 2010 Kansas Jayhawks came into the season having lost two NBA lottery picks and the winningest player in Kansas history.
When you hear that, you would assume that one of those three was the best player on the 33-win team of a year ago. Your assumption probably isn’t what you think it should be, as many Jayhawk and college basketball analysts alike believe that junior forward Marcus Morris was the best player last year. Having led the team in scoring in 12 of the 36 games in 2009, it’s not such a ridiculous statement.
A lot of people around the Kansas community agree with that statement, but Morris isn’t one of them. “We had a lot of good players that were better than me. I wasn’t the best player. I want this to be a family thing and a team thing where everybody is the face of the program, not just one or two players. We need the whole team to play, not just one or two players. We had a lot of weapons last year, just like we do this year,” he explained.
“(Marcus) can impact a game in many ways … he’s the best all-around player that I’ve coached since I’ve been here, and maybe ever,” head coach Bill Self recently said of Philadelphia native Morris. “There’s nobody that I’ve coached that does more things. He’s a guard that can post. He can play with his back to the basket. He can step off the block. He can drive it. He’s got great vision. He’s got range. He’s a good player.”
Marcus spent a lot of time over the summer going to numerous basketball skills camps, most notably the LeBron James Skills Academy, to try to make his game better, “I just pride myself on playing the best way possible. I try to play the right way. I know that I’m a lot quicker than a lot of (forwards) and I can shoot a lot better. That’s just how I grew up, being a versatile player,” Morris said.
Coming from one of the most well-respected coaches in the nation, and a coach who has helped put numerous players in the NBA, being told that he is the best player Bill Self has ever coached is quite an honor for the 6-foot-9 forward. However this is another case that Morris doesn’t necessarily agree with. “That (means) I have come a long way to be the best all-around player. He has coached some really good players that are better than me right now. I still have work to do to get better,” Morris says.
Morris knows he must step up to fill the void since last year’s team leader, and fan favorite Sherron Collins, is no longer providing the spark that the Jayhawks need to be successful, “I know I have to step up because we have a young team. Just knowing (Sherron) won’t be here is making me drive a little harder knowing I’m going to be one of those guys to make those shots and carry the team.”
Coming into the season, Morris is the leading returning scorer – in 2009, after averaging 12.8 points and 6.1 rebounds, Morris was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team, and earned Yahoo Sports! Most Improved Player accolades. Morris currently leads the team with 19 points per game to go along with a 6.3 rebound average. It’s clear that he is the best player on the 2010-11 Jayhawk sqad.
Being the leading returning scorer, Morris has already stepped up to guide the team. Even though it is still early in the season, it is clear that Morris knows what he has to do.
“I know that I can knock down shots from anywhere. I can open the floor for my teammates and let the game go on, just knowing that this is my team this year and that they are waiting for me to spark them,” Morris recently stated.
There have been some comparisons made between Morris and current NBA All-Star, former Jayhawk-great and one of the faces of the Boston Celtics, Paul Pierce. Both, obviously, starred on the Jayhawk basketball team, both were team leaders their junior years in Lawrence, both were one of the best long-range shooters on their Kansas teams, and on a more light-hearted note, both list “Martin” as their favorite TV shows.
Morris even states that Pierce is one of his favorite NBA players and the current player who he tries to mold his game after.
Pierce averaged 20.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game his junior year, while Morris is averaging 19.6 points and 6.3 rebounds. Less than one point and one rebound per game separates Morris and a player whose number is hanging in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse.
Maybe when it’s all said and done, Marcus Morris will have his number hanging in the rafters alongside Pierce.